Students Serve Local Youth

College life brings with it enough responsibilities, so why further complicate it all by throwing in an extra commitment? Yet, many students balance their studies with involvement in a sport, theater production or music group, but a growing number of collegians see this time as a unique opportunity to establish a habit of being connected and involved in the local church.

Besides working to fulfill his role as a student, senior Austin Miller currently serves as the youth director at College Park Missionary Church in Mishawaka. Along with teaching Sunday school weekly and planning all events for the church's youth, he is also filling a position that is practically a full-time commitment, encompassing the traditional duties of an official youth pastor.

Why would a liberal studies major choose to make such a large sacrifice in the midst of everything else in his life? Apparently, this church involvement has taught Miller "to depend on God more." His encouragement to other students is to "try going to the different churches around … Once you have found one you enjoy ... get involved in something you love doing!"  

Not only is it important to play a vital role within the church, but it is even more important, according to Miller, to find an opportunity to minister that fits your individual personality and talents. "Make sure your heart and passion for ministry is being used and through that you will learn all kinds of responsibilities."

Miller is not the only one serving in local churches. Ryan Yazel, a senior biblical literature and philosophy major, reflects upon his time of ministry at Nappanee Missionary Church during the last three years with great appreciation. "It has taught me about living a life focused on others." Yazel views the opportunity to work with youth in the local church as a wonderful way to "make a relational impact." He has been amazed at the opportunities as a senior high intern to become involved in the lives of the boys in his discipleship group and encourages everyone to make an impact in some way.  After all, as he says, ministering in the local church is "part of what it means to be a Christian … Christ commanded all of us to go and make disciples."  

Recently, a group of eight youth ministry students traveled with Terry Linhart, director of the youth ministry program and assistant professor of youth ministry, to the National Youth Workers Conference in Nashville. The event hosted by Youth Specialties brought together more than 6,000 youth workers and numerous speakers from across the country.  The theme of "Sanctuary" provided plenty of opportunities for much-needed rest, rejuvination, encouragement and helpful tips to equip the faithful servants who attended. Senior Dan Hamrick, who serves as the junior high intern at Nappanee, stated that the highlight of his experience was the "collective worship", those moments when thousands of youth workers "worshiped as a choir to God."  

The possibilities for contributing to the church and, thus, the body of Christ are practically endless. Youth ministry is simply one opportunity out of many to minister locally, but, according to Yazel, "you have to be direct about it," even to the point of making your career second to Christ's call to make disciples. "So this is what we are supposed to be doing all through our lives, not taking a break while we are at school.  Everything in life should come second to this calling," explains Yazel, "So, I feel that we are not being faithful to God's call if we do not directly minister to people somewhere in a planned, purposeful way, whether it be mentoring, or helping out in a youth group, or service in the community."

Using your talents for ministry and the benefit of the church is meant to be a significant part of every stage of life and college is no exception. If you make ministry an intentional part of your current preparation for life outside of college, you will later be able to better serve Christ and minister through your career and family.